He is my top student. He and his partner have aced every single lab report that I’ve handed back with top marks. Lately, he’s been acting out of character. He seems lost, unfocused. He’s misplaced his lab manual. He’s stopped handing in his reports. I assume he’s overwhelmed. It’s his first semester of college, exams are around the corner, it’s normal I guess. I brush it off.
The day of the lab exam approaches.
Students are expected to successfully re-perform an experiment they’ve previously done. We don’t have enough equipment for everyone to do the same thing, so students are randomly assigned different experiments. Some get the harder ones, like acid-base titration. Some end up getting the easier ones like spectrophotometry.
He comes in late. Unusual, considering it’s a lab exam. Luckily enough he draws out the card labeled spectrophotometry. I watch over the students as they do their work, walk around and answer any questions they have. He’s just sitting there. Staring at the papers. Really confused.
I’m shocked. Not only is this an easy experiment, but he’s also aced it earlier in the semester, and very well versed with it. I try to guide him in terms of what’s required. His processing seems so unusually slow. I don’t think he understands what I’m saying. He’s a domestic student, with English being his first language, so I don’t understand his lack of comprehension.
Everyone starts finishing up. He’s still there, I tell him he can have extra time. He finishes up half an hour later than everyone else. I’m supervising another class now with their experiments.
He thanks me, hands me his papers and steps outside the lab door.
“C, can I talk to you for a minute”, I ask, glancing over my shoulders to ensure students in the lab room aren’t talking to each other.
“Sure,” C says.
“Are you alright, C? You’re such a good student, and this is so unusual for you.”
I wasn’t expecting what happens next.
His chin starts to tremble and his eyes start to glaze over, “I’m not okay, I’m going through a really difficult breakup right now”.
Wow. SubhanAllah. At that moment I see my younger brother in him, and I feel so incapable of doing anything, except consoling him through kind words and making dua for him.
“You’re an amazing student, C, you’re handsome, you’re kind, you’re capable, God will bless you with someone better.”
Gratitude emanates from his face as he thanks me and leaves.
It’s amazing how Allah swt works. C doesn’t know that these past weeks have been brutal for me. C doesn’t know that I’ve cried on my prayer mat almost every day lately until I thought I’d pass out. C doesn’t know that things just ended between me and a potential spouse, I was really hoping things work out with. But Allah swt knows, and that’s why I’m here, in this moment, the one to learn this about C, and offer some consoling words. Or maybe Allah swt is consoling me through C.
So many of us think we’re the only ones going through a trial or test because we choose not to share it with others but the truth is everyone is going through their own tests, no matter how put-together their life looks.
Sometimes, you just need that mirror to be held up to you so you can reflect on your own tests through other people.
*Please note this is a reflection from 5 months ago. Also, interestingly enough I was inspired to finally put this into writing (though it’s been something I’ve wanted to do for ages) because I’ve had a second circumstance of “Mirroring” happen to me last week. Maybe I’ll write about it too sometime soon.*